A to Z: Overcoming Through Joy

 

Joy

1 a the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune
or by the prospect of possessing what one desires :delight
b the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety
2 a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
3 a source or cause of delight

“…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:11b (ESV)

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,

let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and

let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy that was set before him

endured the cross, despising the shame,

and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:1-3 (ESV)

A Shadows of “Things” to come…

How does Joy empower one to overcome? The answer lies within the story behind these two verses, Nehemiah being a shadow of things to come found in Hebrews.

The setting of the first story is found in the Old Testament where we find the fearful nation of Israel standing before Ezra as he reads the Law and Covenant of their God. The rebellion and idolatry of their fathers had resulted in the fulfillment of  promised wrath and judgment of God. In response to their unfaithfulness and sins, God had raised up a heathen nation to judge, punish, and afflict them. They were conquered by the Babylonians and led into captivity.

After seventy years of captivity God had compassion on them, softening the heart of their captor, king Artaxerxes, who granted permission to Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls. In just 52 days, the walls were repaired and eventually the captive nation returned home.  As the cleaning and rebuilding of the nation continued, Ezra the priest gathered before him, every man and woman, who could hear and understand his words. Ezra opened the law and covenant of God, and read it to the people. Almost  a hundred percent of the people standing before him would hear the law of their God, for the very first time.

The entire nation is stunned and quake with fear as the law is read. In response, they drop to their knees comprehending the magnitude of their rebellion against God. The people utter great, gut wrenching cries of remorse and dread. Now they understand the reason for seventy years of bondage. Their God had not forsaken them, He had not fallen asleep, He was not weak or without power or compassion, He was angry. They have betrayed him with their idolatry and their sins.They had broken the covenant and a great breach had been made between them and God.

It is at this moment the words of Ezra ring out. Do not weep or grieve, he proclaims, “the Joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Eat and partake in the feasts we have read about. This is a holy day unto the Lord, not a day of mourning,  drink and rejoice he calls out.

The repentant nation then partakes, for the first time in seventy years, the sacred feasts that acknowledged and celebrates  the covenant relationship between them and their God. BUT this was not all they celebrated.  They were a fickle nation, prone to sin and they would sin again demonstrating the damming reality of sin. On his own, man could never attain his own righteousness. God would remain faithful, but Israel would continue to  betray His love and faithfulness, justly earning His righteous judgment and punishment…… unless something changed, and changed it would.

The “Thing” that changed “Everything”…

The miraculous redemption story of man warrants a second read!

“..Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,

and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,

despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Once again we are introduced to the “Joy of the Lord.” In Nehemiah, Israel was told to let “the joy of the Lord be their strength“, and in Hebrews we are told just how the Lord’s joy became our strength. God gave man the choice to obey and serve him and man blew it. Sin entered into the world and all of mankind was condemned by its curse. God then gave man a way to repair what sin had destroyed, by requiring a faithful, obedient, upright relationship with him. As Humanity struggled, God faithfully loved, redeemed, pursued, protected, chastised, judged, and punished His people over and over again. Man still failed, proving that if left to himself, he could never attain righteousness through his own works and goodness.

Here is the good part! The Joy of the Lord arrives!

He is Righteousness and Holiness, demanding judgment and punishment for sin. He is also Love, Grace, and Mercy, having compassion on a people without hope. It was the Joy of our Lord that led Him to sacrifice His Beloved Son, in order to redeem man. It was also the Joy of the Son to submit, with humility and obedience, to will of His Father. With Joy the Father sent and with Joy, the son sacrificed and through the Joy of Father and Son, man was given the strength and ability to overcome. The Joy of our Lord was the amazing redemption story. Israel was told not to weep, but they could never have fathomed the day when freedom, life, liberty, and true Joy would replace sorrow. Like Israel, our weeping has turned  to dancing. The terror of our Righteous God does not make us quake in fear. With boldness and joy  we lift our eyes to the heavens where our Help stands and intercedes. We do not weep, we shout glory and honor and praise be to Him who sits on the throne, for we have been redeemed from His righteous judgment and wrath through the sacrifice of His Son!

Because of the Love and Joy of the Father and Son, I have overcome the evil one. I have overcome death, and sin no longer reigns in my body. The Joy of the Lord is my strength and through His redemption plan I have overcome.

The Joy of the Lord is my strength!!

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